A friend based in Singapore sent me the menu for a truly astonishing menu. It all started with hamachi sashimi, with a coco geisha cocktail on the side. The hamachi sashimi was plated with a stenciled design achieved with beetroot powder. She also smoked some beetroot and fizzed some grapes. Then there were frozen margaritas with a butterfly pea flower ice cube, which, incredibly, changed colour as they melted. There was a green mango salad. There was a Siam sunray….
I yearned to be there. Honestly what a feast…so much to try (the whole thing began with some caviar tasting).
A few months later I participated in another feast. This was another source of astonishment, an exotic display of courageous creativity discovered in the very British, understated seaside town of Milford-on-Sea.
The restaurant was Vervaine, and its chef-proprietor, David Wykes is one of the most exciting chefs I’ve come across. His website explains “he takes inspiration for his dishes from nostalgic experiences of a childhood growing up in the seaside town of Hastings”. I went to school in neighbouring St Leonards and I have to say, that town never had that effect for me!
The food arrives looking beautiful and spectacular. Wykes uses chemistry… pretty much alchemy. It could be a bit gimmicky but it’s all done with such verve and enthusiasm that it isn’t. We were on to our third course of the tasting menu when the person serving (more of a professional entertainer than a waitress) mentioned ‘fizzy grapes’ among the delicacies being placed before us. Something stirred deep in the depths of my memory….
In any case, they were a revelation! They were lots of fun! They tingled tantalisingly on the tongue!
So we went home and tried the fizzy grape technique out. I proudly sent pictures to my friend in Singapore, and she gently reminded me that it was she who had put the idea into my head in the first place! I checked my WhatsApp conversations, and, indeed, there it was…nestled modestly between the coco geisha cocktail and the Siam sunray.
If you haven’t used a syphon before, be VERY careful and read the instructions
This was the experience of the very kind friend who volunteered to make these grapes for us:
“In terms of the hilarity of trying to make the gas machine work this is what happened. The first time round I failed to put any grapes in, and then discovered that you couldn’t open the Maille machine (the soda syphon) once you had put the canister in. After that, we had some comedy trying to work out how to get the gas out so that we could put the grapes in and try again: comedy involved me not reading the instructions carefully and being rather gung ho with it, and having to be stopped by my ever-sensible husband, Tim, who insisted that he release the gas over the sink wearing rubber gloves. Having successfully done that we managed to put the grapes in, take 2, and then put it in the fridge.
On the final unveiling of the fizzy grapes, it was a rather high pressure (pun intended) situation, involving a repeat of the rubber glove wearing and supervision from both Tim and Tried & Supplied founder, Domini.”
How to make fizzy grapes
You can also use this technique with other fruit.
- Essentially this is just a matter of putting halved and deseeded grapes into a soda syphon.
- For my Maille syphon (which I also use for making foams) which is a half litre syphon you’d use about 75g/3 oz of grapes.
- Screw on the lid and charge with a CO2 cannister. Shake cautiously and chill for a few hours in the fridge.
- Then….THE SECRET IS TO DO THIS AT THE VERY LAST MINUTE, AS THE GRAPES QUICKLY LOSE THEIR FIZZ….
- Put a cloth over the nozzle and release the gas. Only AFTER you’ve done this should you unscrew the top.
Things to do with fizzy grapes
- Or make a spring onion, white bean and rocket salad with a sherry vinegar dressing and some sprigs of mint. Top with the fizzy grapes.
- Make brie and grape tartlets – spread some onion chutney onto puff pastry, top with a couple of slices of brie and bake in a hot oven for about 15 minutes. Scatter over some chopped rosemary, and top with the grapes. Serve with a dressed bitter red endive garnish.
- or, as at Vervaine, with hot smoked salmon
- or… also with fish…with hamachi sashimi
- add them to goats cheese and balsamic vinegar crostini
- Make a frothy white goats cheese salad
- Simply top a green salad